Wednesday, 16 December 2009

REVIEW: Robin Hood - The Pantomime Adventure, New Theatre, Cardiff

With a rich cavalcade of stars and more cover versions than a Westlife concert, Robin Hood – The Pantomime Adventure explodes onto the New Theatre stage with glitz and glamour.

Of course, we all know the story of Robin Hood, the outlaw of Sherwood Forest who wins over the heart of Maid Marian and in the process puts himself on the wanted list of The Sheriff of Nottingham But anyone who thinks they’ve seen it all before couldn’t be so wrong.

John Barrowman as Robin displays all the showmanship that has endeared him to TV audiences of all ages for the last 5 years, singing, dancing and acting with lots of good natured cheek thrown in.

There is strong support from Emma Thornett as Marian and Pete Gallagher as a caddish Sheriff of Nottingham, while Andy Jones as Will Scarlett and Don Maclean as Friar Tuck, prove you don’t always have to be a dame to get all the laughs (although Maclean does get to wear plenty of frocks).

Special mention must also go to Jacqui Dubois who as the witch Cassandra, puts a spell on everyone with her rich vocal singing talents.

There are some startling scenes in this production that take the audience from the edge of Sherwood Forest to the colourful Nottingham Fair. My particular favourites were the witch Cassandra’s dark lair and the wonderful wintry Ice Forest sequence.

If you want to take your family on a Pantomime treat this Christmas, you’ll be hard pushed to better this excellent production. Robin Hood continues at The New Theatre until 24 January 2010.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Rediscovered Recordings: Bob Danvers Walker on Housewives Choice

I’ve always had a passion for nostalgia and one of my favourite pastimes is listening to recordings of old radio shows from the 1950s and 1960s.

I am therefore grateful to Mark Robinson, an acquaintance who recently drew my attention to a rare recording he had acquired of Housewives Choice, that flagship request show that dominated the BBC Light Programme on weekdays from 1946 to 1967.

Its distinctive theme music In a Party Mood by Jack Strachey heralded the arrival of many guest presenters from Neal Arden, and Sam Costa to George Erick and Bob Danvers Walker.

Bob’s rich distinctive voice was familiar to many cinema goers as the commentator for the twice-weekly British Pathe newsreel, as well as announcer on Michael Miles' popular television game show Take Your Pick.

On this particular recording, which I’m suspecting might have been recorded around Easter, 1958, we find Bob reading dedications and playing popular tunes of the day including Freight Train by Nancy Whisky and Chas McDermott, They Say It’s Wonderful by Liberace and King of Dixieland by Dickie Valentine.

A news report in the middle of the programme, reveals that The Prime Minister, Mr Harold MacMillan is set to meet the Canadian Prime Minister Mr Diefenbaker in Ottawa after a visit to the United States in June and that Mr Khrushchev’s latest letter to the Prime Minister calls on Britain to follow Russia in calling for a suspension to nuclear tests.

The programme ends with Easter Hymn performed by Elena Mikoli Monaco hinting at the time of year the show was possibly recorded, followed by a resurrection themed edition of Five to Ten.

This is followed by the opening moments of a programme featuring Lionel Falkman and his Apache band. Falkman originally hailed from Abertillery and formed a symphony orchestra in Cardiff which would rule radio airwaves via appearances on another Light Programme favourite 'Music While You Work for nearly 23 years.

If you can pinpoint when this recording was originally broadcast I would be delighted to hear from you.

Tracks on the recording
1. Nancy Whisky – Freight Train
2. Diana Todd – Its Wonderful to Be loved
3. Dean Martin - Good Morning Life
4. Petula Clark – Love Me Again5. Russ Conway (Cut)
6. Sydney Chaplin / Judy Holliday – Just in Time (From Bells Are Ringing)
7. Liberace – They Say Its Wonderful (Cut)
8. Undefined.
9. Ray Antony – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
10. Frankie Vaughan – Can’t Get Along Without You (Cut)
11. Miriam Workman – An Affair To Remember
12. Anton Cary’s - Harry Lime Theme
13. Dickie Valentine – King Of Dixieland
14. Dinah Shore – Buttons and Boes (Cut)
15. OST - Let The Grass Grow Under Your Feet (From Free as Air)
16. Elena Mikoli Monaco, Arno Protti - Easter Hymn
17. Housewives Choice – Closing Theme

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Dad's Army's Desert Island Discs - Part 1 : Arthur Lowe

Desert Island Discs has the distinction of been the third longest running radio programme in the world, after The Daily Service (1928) and A Week in Westminster (1929).

Roy Plomley, the series creator developed the programme concept in 1941. His initial idea was to make a series of programmes where personalities from the world of stage, science, film, politics and music would become "castaways" and be sent to a desert island, armed with eight 78rpm records. The “castaway” would then reveal their musical choices and also the relevance of the records to their lives.

A year later, the idea became a reality when the BBC Home Service broadcast the first ever Desert Island Discs programme, presented by Plomley himself with his first castaway; Vic Oliver. The programme opened with its eternally famous signature tune, Eric Coates 1942 recording of “By the Sleepy Lagoon”', and the rest as they say is history...

Over the years, many personalities have been stranded on the famous desert island, but of particular interest to Dad’s Army fans are the appearances of five of the shows regular stars, Arthur Lowe (Captain Mainwaring), John Le Mesurier (Sergeant Wilson), Clive Dunn (Lance-Corporal Jones), John Laurie (Private Frazer) and Arnold Ridley (Private Godfrey), all who made appearances on the programme between 1970 and 1976, on BBC Radio 4. Over the coming weeks Retrospace will take a look at these appearances and shed some light on the actors choices...

As with many BBC programmes from this era, TV and Radio shows of non-repeatable value were not kept by the BBC archives. This unfortunately seems to include Arthur Lowe’s appearance on Desert Island Discs which was broadcast 39 years ago this week on December 12 1970.

However, Roy Plomley did record Arthur’s choices for posterity in his book ‘Desert Island List’s’ of which author Graham McCann referred to in his 2001 book ‘Dad’s Army- The Story of a Classic Television Show’.
Arthur Lowe’s choices were well thought out. Referring to his biography by his son Stephen, it is easy to see how meticulous he was at keeping a diary and recording every single acting engagement. His love of music was obviously recalled in a similar manner as his choices adopt an almost chronological feel.

His first choice was Tosti’ “Parted” by Peter Dawson which reminded him of his father singing the song from happy musical evenings during his childhood in Manchester. His teenage years were remembered with fondness as he listened to “Love is The Sweetest Thing” performed by Al Bowlly with Ray Noble and his Orchestra.

Glenn Miller’s standard “At Last” was a recording that both Arthur and his wife Joan adopted as their own. Arthur recalled his own early theatrical days from the Jack Hylton production of Irving Berlin’s “Call Me Madam” in which he played Senator Brockbank. Shani Wallis and Jeff Warren’s version of “It’s been a lovely Day today” from the same production was featured as his fifth choice.

Debussy’s “La Mer” was revealed as his favourite recording, and his eighth and final choice brought the listener bang up to date as it was “Who Do You Think You are Kidding Mr. Hitler?” by Bud Flanagan, the theme to Dad’s Army, and a song he had recorded himself only a year earlier.

Arthur Lowe’s Desert Island Choices In Full :
  1. Tosti ‘Parted’ Peter Dawson 
  2. Love is The Sweetest Thing Al Bowlly / Ray Noble and his Orchestra
  3. At Last Glenn Miller and his Orchestra
  4. Litolff, Concerto Symphonique No.4 in D Minor (Scherzo) Clifford Curzon piano / LPO/Boult
  5. Berlin, It’s a Lovely Day Today (from “Call Me Madam”) Shani Wallis & Jeff Warren
  6. Bach’s Concerto in C Minor Paul Badura-Skoda and Jorg Demus pianos / Vienna State Opera Orchestra/ Redel
  7. Debussy,‘La Mer’ NPO / Boulez – Favourite recording
  8. Who do you think you are Kidding Mr. Hitler? - Bud Flanagan
When quizzed by Plomley as to what luxury he would take to the Desert Island he replied “a dozen cases of my best claret”. And a book apart from the Bible, complete works of Shakespeare and big encyclopaedias? Arthur responded practically and in true Captain Mainwaring style. He would take a book about tropical plants so that he would know which of the island’s berries he could eat.
  • The recording of Arthur Lowe's appearance on Desert Island Discs no longer exists, however if you are able to provide any information regarding to his appearance on the programme, or even a recording I would be more than pleased to hear from you. Any updates will be included in future posts.
For more information on Dad's Army visit http://www.dadsarmy.tv/

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